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How to Safely Trap and Release Groundhogs, Possums, and Other Native Animals

Not All Critters Are Bad

Possums are the only marsupial in the United States. A mother possum carries up to 13 babies in her pouch.

This informative video I made will tell you more about our friend, the possum. It depicts a mother that I caught and released with her babies. Learn some interesting facts about this misunderstood critter!

Have a Heart and Relocate Those Troublesome Critters

If you love to garden and have been frustrated by all the critters that simply think your home is an "all you can eat buffet," then you should do what I did and purchase a nice Havahart trap to capture and relocate them.

The nice thing about these traps is they are not meant to harm the animals and are quite easy to use. Since I have had problems with groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, in the past, I decided to take the trap out one more time this year.

If you have problems with any small critters in your yard—possums, raccoons, squirrels, groundhogs or others—this article and my video will show you how easy it is to capture and relocate them so you can enjoy your garden again.

Things You Will Need:

  1. *Havahart trap, size depends on what you are looking to trap.
  2. Carrots or other food they are attracted to.
  3. A lace to relocate your critters. It should be far enough away that they won't find their way back to your home.

*I noticed in my local Home Depot they carry a few sizes of the trap. I used the Model 1079, which is large enough for most small animals as you can see in my photos and video.

Now you will need to find a spot where you know they seem to come from. I found them coming and going next to my tool shed where they have easy access to my neighbor's yards and mine.

Once you have the spot, you will be able to set the trap and leave it. Note I have covered the trap with stuff to make it seem more natural. I keep my empty flower pots here, so I used them to make the trap blend in.

Different Animals Like Different Food . . . So Try a Few Different Things

I have used string beans, carrots (which seem to be very popular), peanut butter, zucchini, and other veggies. They all seem to work fine. They also sell food for these animals so you can buy some and use that as well. We already know that our groundhogs love the sunflower seeds in the bird food I feed my birds.

Note: If you are trapping groundhogs, check back every few hours to see if the door on the trap is shut.

Groundhogs will eat all day. In one day we caught one early in the day, relocated him and then caught a second one later that afternoon. Possums are nocturnal and will only forage for food at night, so leave the trap and check it in the morning.

You May Have to Clean the Trap Before Relocating Your Animal

I noticed the groundhogs all had to eliminate their solid waste when in the trap. Might be from nerves or they simply have to go after they eat. I took the trap to my grass and hosed it clean making sure not to get the water on the groundhogs. Once the trap was clean, I put some newspapers on the back of my SUV and put the cage in and we were on our way. I also covered the cage with a large towel to keep them quiet.

Friendly Traps and Photos

Haveaheart traps are available at hardware stores and online

Haveaheart traps are available at hardware stores and online

You just want to hug them, don't you?  They will eat everything in your garden and do it fast.

You just want to hug them, don't you? They will eat everything in your garden and do it fast.

Place the trap in a spot you know they go to and cover it with surrounding plants or other items to conceal it.

Place the trap in a spot you know they go to and cover it with surrounding plants or other items to conceal it.

Getting ready to be released into his new and better home.

Getting ready to be released into his new and better home.

Be sure to check with your local parks department to get permission to release your critter in the park.

Be sure to check with your local parks department to get permission to release your critter in the park.

Run little fella, run.

Run little fella, run.

Keep Them Calm When Relocating

Place a towel or cover over the cage when transporting them.

Place a towel or cover over the cage when transporting them.

Catching and Releasing a Groundhog

The Final Step: Relocate Your Critter To a New and Safe Home

I am lucky because I live in New Jersey. We still have plenty of parks, woods, and farmland, which makes relocation relatively simple. Of course, that is probably why we have these critters. I am sure if I lived in an urban area the varmints would be the ones you would want to eliminate and not relocate. For the sake of this article, we are talking about native rural wildlife, not urban pests.

I have relocated my critters in a gorgeous county park; that is full of nature, beautiful creatures, and then, of course, all the people that come to enjoy our parks. Unfortunately, I discovered that this was against the law in my state and had to find other areas to relocate my animals.

You may want to check with your local health department or park department to make sure it is OK to relocate your critter before you do as I did.

Tips:

  • Take workman or heavy gloves with you on your release of the critters. Safety is critical and you don't want to deal with a bite or bad scratch from one of your animal friends.
  • Wild animals are not pets, so handle them with extreme care. Remember, that a possum may look like he is injured or even dead, but that is what they do when they are scared, don't attempt to handle them yourself.
  • Be careful during the release by simply opening the trap and waiting for them to leave, or help them by tilting the trap.

What type of garden critters do you have?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Mike on July 10, 2020:

I had a small groundhog living under my deck and eating the marigolds and sniffing my cannabis plants. I would see him in the early morning and in the late afternoon. I caught him in a live trap with a few bits of canalope and some spinach. I released him into an area away from other homes. The location was wooded with plenty of streams and lots of greens. He should thrive there as it is a very large area.

Diane on July 07, 2019:

As for Possums finding their way back: my little sister decided to paint a trapped one’s nails by reaching the brush through the cage. After releasing it a couple miles away our little fancy girl came back a couple days later!

jay on June 24, 2019:

I just caught a really funny looking ground hog. It was white with a long tail. Relocated it 40 miles away. Fun fact - around these parts groundhogs wear little collars with bells on them

.

M on May 24, 2019:

Rocking ranch ur wrong lol

rockinlranch.net on September 04, 2018:

A possum to a Equine person can be deadly to their Horses.

They carry a disease that horses can get. In some situations they may not be harmful, in others deadly.

Bash on June 18, 2018:

Its amazing,question is can a possum find his way back home,now you have the entire love story of critters accept an Answer to the question

Monserrat on December 23, 2017:

In my yard there is a possum.

Park Director on August 31, 2017:

The article recommends checking with the park before releasing. PLEASE DO SO. We do not allow nuisance animals to be released in our park. The simple reason is that since they have become a nuisance to you... they quickly become a nuisance to us or the people in the neighborhood next door. We have plenty of squirrels in our walls, raccoons in our trash, and woodchucks in our foundations WITHOUT your additions.

Also keep in mind that you're releasing your animals into a habitat that has a CARRYING CAPACITY (limited food, habitat, space) may already be inhabited by animals with established territory... that are willing to defend it! There just might not be appropriate conditions for that animal to survive. So although you feel warm and fuzzy for live-trapping and releasing, you might likely be damning that animal to a slow and painful death.

Humane euthanasia is often be the better, more caring option.

Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on July 17, 2017:

I have relocated seven ground hogs this year. I thought for a couple of days that I was ahead of the game after number 5, than again after number 6, and again after number 7. Now I saw another one. I move them about 5 miles, to the other side of the interstate highway, in the event they are like cats, and are able to return home.

Indiana on April 05, 2017:

Please do not take critters to release in State Parks, I have now trapped and released 12 Raccoons, 4 Possums in just 3 months I live a mile away for the State park! We drive 20 miles away in a old wooded forest with a creek and shelter areas, making sure they are far from others home!

Robert on July 28, 2016:

I have a couple of opposums that have gotten into the house and are living above the suspended ceiling of my basement. they're walking around and I need to remove them. How can I do this?

Len Rapoport (author) from New Jersey on October 26, 2015:

When I put out the trap I was looking for Groundhogs and didn't know much about Possums. When I caught this mom and her babies I started to read about them and the good they do. I haven't had any issues this past two years with Groundhogs or Possums in my yard, but if I caught a Possum again I would just let it go in my yard. Frankly the place I released mom and the babies was much better then my small yard in a development. There she would have a better chance of feeding and raising her young. Thanks for your thoughtful and informative comments.

Mickey on September 02, 2015:

Caught my groundhog with a banana. $0.49/lb at kwik trip!

Candace Seaton on June 19, 2015:

You are foolish to remove 'possums, or yard angels. They are your best friends. They eat up ticks ans spiders, clean away dead things, control rat populations and do no harm. They don't chase, bite, get rabies, and will become quite friendly with you cat. Removing any animal in summer may leave babies behind to starve. Please move animals in fall only. Most relocated animals die soon because they are in a strange place with predators, no food or water, so try your best to live and let live.

Joe Poniatowskis from Mid-Michigan on June 29, 2014:

Great information, we have a family of groundhogs living under an old foundation on our farm. Since their burrows are hazardous to our horses, they have to go. This gives me an option over killing them.

dave on November 28, 2013:

i have the medium size live animal trap. 32"x 10"x 15"

i bought mine at a place called harbor freight tools for only about 22$

that is much cheaper than the haveahart brand if that help anyone.

ive caught two possums using fish sticks but i think they'll eat just about anything. i was wondering about the distance to relocate possums.

i took them about two miles away and i haven't seen them again.

Karen on July 28, 2013:

This is awesome. The only groundhogs I ever saw up north had furry brows, but the one in my yard (Nc) looks just like this with a white nose. I feel very confident that I can catch it with a live trap now. I just have to check with the park to make sure its ok. Thanks for the confidence and information.

:-D

Len Rapoport (author) from New Jersey on September 29, 2012:

Some say you should take them over 2 miles away or they will find their way back home, some say even greater. Frankly, I have dropped some only a half mile away and although I don't remember their faces :-) I usually only catch two a season in the yard and I am sure the ones I do catch are not the same ones I have relocated. Same with Possums that I catch. I do understand squirrels have a better sense of where their homes were and can return if not taken a longer distance to relocate. I had a friend who told me he relocated over 25 squirrels from his yard in one summer. I told him he really only had 5 of them and relocated the same 5 five times. We both laughed.

Jack on March 13, 2012:

How far do I have to go when relocating a groundhog to be certain it will not return?

christy in upstate ny on September 27, 2011:

Thank you for posting this. My groundhogs are excavating along the side of a steep hill a few feet from my house causing a lot of erosion. Not willing to find out the hard way if this can compromise my foundation so they've got to be relocated. Caught the first one this morning after setting the trap last night. Used canteloupe as well! Took him (big guy!) five miles away to a secluded wooded area between two farms. Since it's late in the season, if he returns I'll retrap in late winter and take him and his family across a river or canal where he's not likely to be able to find his way back. What I don't know is what to expect in early winter. Will the pups winter over with the parents in the same den? If not, do the mates stay together? Anyone know?

Anonymous on September 24, 2011:

Me and my son bought this trap, filled it with cantaloupe(yes, cantaloupe) and he was caught in 20 minutes.

Sandy on September 19, 2011:

I have caught and relocated two possums in two nights using peanut butter, raisan bran cereal and little debs pastry, worked like a charm!

John B on July 28, 2011:

I do not recall seeing in the article or the responses, how far a woodchuck must be relocated so it does not return. Currently I take any I find about 4.5 miles but I am not certain that is far enough. Any thoughts.

Len Rapoport (author) from New Jersey on June 23, 2011:

Possums are actually good for your garden and will not cause damage. You can see a video I did with more information on Possums on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/FV-1q_sWCfg

Groundhogs, however are destructive and will not only dig holes (possums climb trees) and eat anything and everything in your garden, including your flowers and must be relocated. I found out in New Jersey it is also against the law to relocate them in the parks...so you need to find a desolate area that you can do so. Our state is not big on saving wild animals and would rather have you kill them then relocate them.

KOSMO06 on June 23, 2011:

Sliced apples is the best food to use to catch Groundhogs, use them all the time and I have caught and relocated 5 so far this year.

Lolly on June 30, 2010:

I used a few dabs of vanilla extract and caught them in a few hours. Works great.

K on May 06, 2010:

This blog saved me! I live in North Jersey by a brook. I have given up gardening because ground hogs have ruined not only my vegetable garden but also all of my perennial garden. I have had the "Haveaheart" trap for 2 years and was terrified to use it. We finally set it up in the Spring and caught a possom, my husband took care of disposing of it. We caught another one today and I am going to be the fearless woman that I am and relocate it by myself to a nature preserve 20 miles away. This blog and corresponding video has given me courage!

Len Rapoport (author) from New Jersey on March 08, 2010:

Did you cover it with leaves and stuff so it is dark and blends into the background. Also try different types of veggies...I tried string beans, carrots and even watermelon rinds. I have caught GH and Opposums...I have an opposum now coming to my back door at night, so soon I will get the trap out because I heard they mate in the Spring and don't want a bunch of little ones to deal with.

wrypatch from Virginia on March 08, 2010:

I have this exact trap, and - alas - it hasn't worked to nab my evil groundhog. Been tryin' for three seasons now. I caught (and relocated, despite it being against the law here) three opossums, but that GH is far too smart. I heard cat litter (the wreak of ammonia) makes them leave. That's the plan this year. I've quick-creted most of my basement already. War is hell.